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Program That Helps Homeless Get Housing Threatened By State Cuts

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The Bloomberg administration says state budget cuts to the so-called "Advantage" program will force tens of thousands of people into shelters instead of letting them live in apartments, but the governor's office says those claims are not true. NY1's Dean Meminger filed the following report.

The city's Department of Homeless services says it fears it is going to have to terminate the Advantage program, which places homeless families in apartments and helps them stay there by paying most of the rent for up to two years.

"The devastating part of this for families is that the governor is proposing to pull the rug from underneath people who are already in the community," said Department of Homeless Services Commissioner Seth Diamond.

If $65 million in Advantage funding is cut from the state budget, the city says it will have to terminate Advantage starting next week, while 3,000 families are looking for apartments through the program.

"Some of them are days away from moving and they are not going to be able to do so because of this cut," said Diamond.

The family of Natalie Rizzo is one of 15,000 actually in apartments.

"This program is really helping at a time when I cannot afford my full rent," said Rizzo. "A lot the people on the program are single parents trying to get back on their feet like myself."

DHS officials say without the apartments, shelters will overflow by next summer. The city predicts it would have to pay $80 million to build 70 more shelters around the city.

"A lot of that is our money and there is capital cost to build as well as operate," said Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

The governor's office says that doomsday scenario just is not true. A spokesman said, "The reality is that, regardless of this year's anticipated cuts, New York City has the funds to support the continuation of this program if it so chooses."

"The mayor and city officials are really scaring homeless children and families, scaring landlords, scaring service providers," said Patrick Markee of the Coalition for the Homeless.

Advocates for the homeless say they are not upset that this program may come to an end, as it is not really an advantage for people in the shelter system.

"The fact of the matter is the Advantage program is a failed program. It's a revolving door back to shelter for thousands of children and parents," said Markee.

The Coalition for the Homeless says there are plenty of public housing apartments available and the city should use them to help the homeless instead of paying private landlords.

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